Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Adam Curtis in the deep, dark woods

 It's a lot to take in, every time Adam Curtis drops another project like Can't get You Out Of My Head on the world. He's the best essay filmmaker around, with access to huge archives of modern history, and finds new angles and stories in the background of the world.

His films are about consciousness and culture and politics and race and justice and the general strangeness of the past century. They're full of people who are convinced that they can change the world by forcing everyone to act in a rational way, in their own self interests, and then are devastated when people won't do what they're bloody well told. He's also got excellent taste in music.

As well as the actual footage, his use of visual metaphor is absolutely stunning - lost people dancing to the apocalypse; snatches of crowds at the edge of momentous events; suburbanites so absolutely crushed by the weight of modern life that they can barely light their cigarettes.

There is one shot he's used in several movies, featuring the beam of a flashlight going across a dark forest, and it's always been incredibly powerful, because it's casting brief light on unknowable history, showing the trees, but utterly failing to pierce the darkness in the forest beyond.

That shot doesn't show up in his latest film, but there's still plenty of trip-hop needle drops, and plenty of other stock images of this crazy and complex world falling apart. Curtis is a absolute poet of the b-roll and always happy to remind everyone of the deep, dark voices in the woods of modern life.

Watch all his films here. You don't have to totally subscribe to their pessimistic view of humanity, but it's a point of view that's always worth a look.

No comments: